MacDill youth throwing for gold at Junior Olympics

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman David D. McLoney
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

As the Tokyo Olympics kick off this week, one youth is getting ready to represent MacDill Air Force Base at the Junior Olympics in Northern Florida starting early next week.

Benjamin Hiestand, a 6th grader from Tinker K-8 School, is competing in the discus throw event at the Junior Olympics in Jacksonville, Florida, July 26 through Aug. 1, 2021.

“During practice I work on my form, by holding the discus at the tip of my fingers and starting off in the front of the ring,” Hiestand said. “Then throughout practice, I work my way to the back of the ring like the professionals do.”

Hiestand recently competed in the United States of America Track and Field Youth Nationals in the 11-12 age group, winning both the discus and the shot put events. His winning shot put was 41 feet, 4 inches, and his winning discus throw was 109 feet, 7 inches.

He also won the Amateur Athletic Union regional qualifiers for the discus throw in late June.

Both Hiestand and his brother, Edward Jr., started track and field when they were in elementary school.

“Benjamin first got involved two summers ago in national events as a tag-along to his brother,” said Edward Hiestand Sr. “Edward was 14 at the time and was scheduled to go to his first national event as a sprinter. I looked at how far the 10-year-olds threw the shot put and asked Edward if he thought Benjamin could throw anywhere near that far and he responded saying, ‘yes’.”

Shortly before that event, Edward Jr. started teaching his brother shot put and discus throwing and after only two weeks of practicing for his first event, Hiestand finished in 4th place at the national championship.

He still wasn’t too excited over the experience of competing, but he did enjoy practicing with his brother.

Recently, he has been training with his coach, former European throwing champion, Andy Vince, which has caused his excitement for the sport to grow.

“His coach believes Benjamin has the ability to compete at the highest level given his early start in an event that is very technical,” said Hiestand Sr. “He is blessed with an athletic build and feels if he continues to train that he will continue to be a top-rated thrower at each stage of competition. He is currently the number one ranked 6th grader and 11-12 year old discus thrower in America.”

Hiestand’s coach pushes him to be the best at what he does and believes he has potential, but his family is also proud that he has a good attitude and is being a great sport about everything.

“He is an excellent student and that is the most important thing to his Mom and I,” said Hiestand Sr. “He is also a really kind person and during the competition he encourages all the other throwers.”

Along with being a good sport, Hiestand enjoys traveling, making new friends and seeing new places along his athletic journey.

“The last event in Rome, Georgia, was fun, I liked the town and I got to throw the discus,” said Hiestand. “We got to visit a cool college in the town and that was fun.”

Hiestand also enjoys Tinker K-8 School because of the teachers and likes the aspect of it being a smaller school. His father also believes that Tinker has been a good influence and support for him.

“Tinker has been a great experience for both boys and they have been supported both educationally and athletically,” said Hiestand Sr.

Hiestand attends track events that are sanctioned by the USATF in Sarasota, Florida, once a month, but trains on base in-between to prepare for competition.

“Many people probably are not aware of this, but there are actually throwing rings near the baseball fields next to the big track on base,” said Hiestand Sr. “Having facilities like we do on MacDill is a real blessing.”

Although the thrill of participating in the Junior Olympics would be enough to motivate any competitor, Heistand’s desire to outperform his brother in friendly competition is his main focus.

“I’m excited when I get a medal,” Hiestand said. “When I get home, I get to put it up somewhere to show my brother that I earned more medals than he did.”

Hiestand will continue his competition with his brother and the rest of the world, although his mother U.S. Air Force Capt. Florentine Hiestand, a nurse at the 6th Medical Group, will soon be relocating to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, taking her family along with her.

In Idaho, Hiestand will be training with a husband-and-wife team who are both former Olympic champions. Stacy Dragila, the first American woman to win a gold medal in the pole vault and her husband, Ian Waltz, a two-time Olympic discus team member, will coach Hiestand on both pole vaulting and discus throwing.

For more information about the Junior Olympics, visit